Amazon Looms Large in Google’s $2.6 Billion Court Clash With EU
Amazon.com Inc. was drawn into Google’s battle with the European Union over a multibillion-euro antitrust decision as lawyers clashed on whether regulators overlooked its emergence as a global leader in online shopping.
Google claims that the EU failed to consider Amazon as a key player when in 2017 it fined the search-engine giant 2.4 billion euros ($2.6 billion) for unfairly discriminating against smaller shopping search rivals.
Those competitors blame Google for choking off the web traffic they needed to become commercially successful. But Google says this fails to take account of how Amazon became an important part of the web shopping experience.
So-called merchant platforms like Amazon “are the overwhelming competitive force in this market,” Christopher Thomas, a lawyer for Google, said on day two of a hearing at the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg.
For shopping search services, “the arrival of merchant platforms in their market is clear” and the EU’s error not to include Amazon’s role in how users search the web for products should invalidate the EU’s findings, he said.
The European Commission’s lawyer Nicholas Khan said Google’s own documents “indicate that Google and Amazon are business partners” and not competitors. For the EU, Amazon is a retailer and not a search service that directs users to online stores.
Amazon “was the biggest beneficiary” of Google’s actions to give less prominence to rival shopping search firms “so didn’t complain,” said Thomas Hoeppner, a lawyer for Axel Springer SE’s Visual Meta search unit, which supports the EU. “Large retailers consider merchant platforms like Amazon as a competitor and not a distribution channel,” he said.
The company, which isn’t supporting either side publicly in the case, declined to comment on the court hearing.
Amazon has its own EU antitrust investigation to fend off, a probe opened last year into whether it unfairly gets an advantage from data it collects on sellers.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.